Judging films from gypsies to a clay man

Iattended the San Francisco International Film Festival as a member of the Golden Gate Awards grand prize jury, charged with the enjoyable task of judging short films and documentaries that had been winnowed from a much longer list. My fellow jurors were Ziba Mir-Hosseini, whose film "Divorce Iranian Style" won a grand prize here last year, and Hans Hurch, an Austrian critic-screenwriter who runs the Viennale filmfest in Vienna.

Our prize for best documentary went to "American Gypsy: A Stranger in Everybody's Land," a lively blend of personal and political issues that could have a bright theatrical future if some distributor is enterprising enough to give it a chance.

The prize for best short movie went to "Outer Space," by avant-garde director Peter Tscherkassky, who deconstructs an old horror movie so relentlessly that it becomes an abstract exercise in movement, shape, and shadow. Two additional awards, reserved for movies from the San Francisco Bay area, went to the documentary "First Person Plural," the festival's best study of international adoption, and the moody short "Window," a claymation cartoon about the mundane adventures of an ordinary man during the Depression.

All these films deserve to reach wide and receptive audiences.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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